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Maro Itoje against making Premiership salaries public and is yet to decide his Saracens future after scandal

The Independent logo The Independent 4 days ago Jack de Menezes

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Maro Itoje believes that making the salaries of all Premiership players available for the public eye would not be in their best interests after finding himself at the heart of the Saracens salary cap scandal.

Itoje was named in the leaked report that found Saracens guilty of breaching the salary cap for the last three seasons, with a refusal to agree to a mid-campaign financial audit resulting in a 70-point deduction and certain relegation to the Championship.

The report revealed that England lock Itoje had been paid £1.6m for a 30 per cent share of his image rights, and an alternative valuation commissioned by Premier Rugby Limited suggested that the 25-year-old had been overpaid by £800,000, which was added to the co-investment property agreements that former chief executive Nigel Wray agreed to with a number of players that took the club well beyond the £7m salary cap.

Premiership Rugby committed to releasing a redacted version of the report, only for it to be leaked in its entirety that named Itoje among a handful of senior players, and he admitted that it came as a personal blow to see himself in the headlines of the story that has tarnished English club rugby this season.

But he also rejected calls for all salaries to be made public in a similar way to the approach used in the United States, where sports such as the National Football League utilise complete transparency to enforce the salary cap.

(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

“It wasn't ideal to be honest,” Itoje said. “It felt like an invasion of privacy but some things are out of your control and you can't lose too much sleep over things you can't control.”

He added: "I'm sure it works in a lot of different places but, believe it or not, when it comes to finances I'm quite a private person. On an individual level, I wouldn't want anybody or everybody knowing exactly what I'm earning but fortunately we're not public officials – well I'm not one quite yet! – so I don't think there's a genuine need for that.

"Obviously there is a salary cap manager and that's his job is to make sure everything is as it should be."

The current Saracens squad that has won four Premiership titles and three Champions Cup crowns in the last five years will be ripped apart at the end of the season in order to prepare for life in the second tier and meet the salary cap, though a number of their England internationals looked set to remain at the club even if it jeopardises their selection in Eddie Jones’s squad as well as the British and Irish Lions.

The loyalty that the players have towards the clubs appears to still be intact despite how events have unfolded this season, with the Saracens hierarchy taking the blame for the huge financial oversights that have cost the club their success built over the last decade.

Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff/File Photo © Reuters Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff/File Photo

But Itoje insisted that he was not about to start calling out those responsible for what has occurred.

“I’m not really here to point fingers,” he said. “What has happened, has happened. No-one at the club wanted this to happen and no-one at the club envisaged this would happen. I’m sure if they did, they would have taken steps to make sure that it didn’t. So I don’t want to sit here and say, ‘it was this person’s fault or that person’s fault’.

“The club have said their piece. They have apologised and my mind-set is forward, rather than backwards.”

Itoje did confirm that he remains locked in the image rights deals that have caused so much controversy. “When I entered into them, they were all – to my knowledge, based on anything I got (told) – above board. Nothing I entered into was with the intention of … there wasn’t even the slightest thought of it being not allowed by the salary cap manager.

a group of young men playing a game of football: Itoje has not yet decided where he will be playing his rugby next season (Getty) © Provided by The Independent Itoje has not yet decided where he will be playing his rugby next season (Getty)

“Obviously the situation is very different now. It is very clear that whatever you do, you have to get it checked by Mr Rogers (salary cap manager Andrew Rogers). That’s the reality of the situation.”

On Thursday England hooker Jamie George confirmed that he plans to stay with the club next season to aid them through the “transition” period of going from Premiership champions to promotion hopefuls in the Championship. Itoje has also been touted to stay along with the likes of Owen Farrell and the Vunipola brothers, Mako and Billy, but while lengthy discussions have taken place across the club, Itoje is not yet ready to commit himself for next season.

“We’ve had discussions with the club about what could potentially happen next year, what things are going to be in place,” Itoje added. “Nothing has been finalised yet. But Smally (director of rugby Mark McCall) said that if I stay in the Championship he’ll allow me to take drop-goals. That’s a bit of an incentive! It’s still to be confirmed.

“I’m pretty sure Saracens will put things in place that make it relatively easy for the guys in our situation to do that. Saracens is a great place in terms of the environment, the way they look after people, I’m sure they’ll put things in place, but the details haven’t yet been confirmed.

"It's no secret that I love the club (Saracens). The club have been good to my family, they've treated myself with a lot of respect. The environment, the culture they have at the club, is something special.

"As players, obviously every player is going to be different, every player is going to have a slightly different situation but I think in the long run Saracens are going to be alright."

Related: England Player Ratings: Scotland (A) [Read Sport]


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